There are very few things over which a baseball player, specifically a pitcher, has direct control. He can’t help it if a batter runs into a good pitch, he can’t force his teammates to make all the plays behind him, and he sure as hell can’t prevent the home plate ump from making a bad call just because his catcher was set up oddly.
But one thing every single player can control every single time is his effort level, and Carl Edwards Jr. flat-out dogged it on a pivotal play in the 6th inning of Monday night’s game.
I’m not usually one for hot-takery or knee-jerk commentary, so I carried out a little internal debate before putting fingers to keyboard on this one. However, seeing someone completely vacate the most basic responsibility because he was either too busy pouting about a bad pitch or simply had no idea what was going on had me steamrolling through my better judgment.
And since I’ve already engaged meatball rant mode, let’s get into into the decision to turn to Edwards in the first place before we ether the play in question. Despite his obvious struggles over the last few weeks, Joe Maddon has been force-feeding his setup man in an effort to find that one moment that’ll turn it all around.
As noble a concept as that is, iron sharpening iron and all that, I’m not sure a tie game against the team barking at your heels atop the division is the best way to find that moment. Not for a guy who’s posted identical — and identically bad — 6.59 K/9 and BB/9 marks since August 1 and who melted down against the Brewers in Milwaukee recently.
Bringing Edwards into this particular game in that particular situation — men on second and third after Jon Lester exited with back stiffness — is all on Maddon. What happened after that lies squarely on the Stringbean Slinger’s slight shoulders. Regardless of the dirty inning and abbreviated bullpen warmup, though, there’s no excuse for a dereliction of duties and a total lack of awareness.
I’ve often said that you know pretty much what Edwards is going to give you from the first pitch he throws, and this one was a doozy. He spiked a curve, sending the ball careening to the backstop with Willson Contreras in hot pursuit. But as Mike Moustakas — who to the best of my knowledge is not widely regarded as a speed demon — broke for the plate, Edwards lazily skipped from the mound before eventually breaking into a jog.
By the time he’d shaken free from his fit of wanton self-absorption, it was far too late to do anything about it. Moose, the man whose plate appearance against Edwards in that aforementioned debacle precipitated ejections of both Maddon and the pitcher, easily scored the winning run as Edwards loafed to the plate with a lack of urgency befitting participation in a court-mandated defensive driving class.
I’d normally call something like that half-assed, except Edwards’ unsubstantial backside dictates that it was really more quarter-assed. And that’s actually more accurate when you get right down to it. Being bad is one thing, a pitcher is going to biff pitches from time to time. But to compound it with the kind of bush-league lolligaggery that even the most disinterested Little League parents wouldn’t accept is…well, it’s unacceptable.
So what happens from here? Under normal circumstances, Edwards would see his role decreased in some capacity due to lack of both effort and efficacy. The Cubs aren’t necessarily bursting with reliable relievers at this point, though, so cutting of their nose to spite their face isn’t much an option. Then again, trying to force a moment for Edwards right now is a futile and maybe even harmful gesture.
Maybe Mostakas scores even if Edwards sprints home and I’m not all fired up about it. But maybe the Cubs have a play. This is the point in the season where you need to do the little things right, or at least not do them so obscenely wrong that some jag devotes an entire blog post to your failure.